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The Epicure's lament : a novel
Kate Christensen
Adult Fiction CHRISTE

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Christensen's two previous novels (Jeremy Thrane; In the Drink) were delightfully believable, sympathetic contemporary narratives filled with wry humor and appealing protagonists. Here she ups the ante, with loftier literary aspirations and succeeds masterfully. As a young man, Hugo Whittier dreamed of being a published poet and essayist. Now 40, with a string of failures behind him, he sits self-exiled at Waverly, the family home on the Hudson River, dryly churning out autobiographical notebooks while smoking fast and furiously enough to ensure his rapid, inevitable demise (he is suffering from Buerger's disease, "almost certainly terminal in patients who keep smoking"). Christensen keeps the entire work moving briskly with delicious sardonic wit ("More and more, as I contemplate my death, it strikes me as vital in some way to hedge my bets. These fragments here... I leave in lieu of a life's work, a series of achievements") as well as infectious, detailed references to M.F.K. Fisher's food writing and essayist Michel de Montaigne, who is the novel's chief inspiration. Throughout, narcissistic, put-upon Hugo is pulled into the lives of others, mostly family members, who suddenly descend upon him and disrupt his otherwise placid, predictable existence: the wife he hasn't seen in 10 years who seeks reconciliation, the on-the-verge-of-divorce older brother, the violin-playing 10-year-old who may or may not be his daughter, his "Fag Uncle Tommy" and even a hit man originally hired to kill him during his wild young gigolo, drug-dealing days. All have gravitated to the family residence by the novel's end, providing him with substantial material for meditations on art, God, pedophilia, justifiable homicide and his obsession with sex, among other topics. It all works because Christensen has created in Hugo an altogether appealing, irascible antihero, along the lines of Grady Tripp in Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys or Doug Willis in David Gates's Preston Falls. This is an impressive tome, one that tickles the funny bone and feeds the mind. (Feb. 17) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Composed as a series of journal entries by epicure and would-be hermit Hugo Whittier, this novel recounts the intrusions of a variety of family members and their friends into his solitary life at his home on the Hudson. The fortyish, misanthropic Hugo, who is presumably dying of the rare and painful Buerger's disease because he refuses to quit smoking, sets about causing trouble in the hopes of ridding himself of these interlopers, even as he insinuates himself into their lives. He undertakes an affair with his sister-in-law's best friend, Stephanie, and contracts for the death of Stephanie's husband, who he believes is a child molester. He entertains dishonorable intentions toward his brother's teenaged nanny and attempts to drive Sonia, his estranged wife, and alleged daughter Bellatrix out of his house and back to New York. Everything culminates in a lavish Christmas dinner involving all the major characters, after which Hugo plans to end his life. Christensen (In the Drink) has produced a mordantly comic romp led by a protagonist who often seems like a cross between Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces and a Nabokov antihero. Recommended for all public libraries.-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Hugo Whittier
Age: 40
Bitter; chain smoker; suffering from a disease that with kill him if he continues to smoke.

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